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As COVID Cases Among Children Increase, Florida Leaders Call for Better Leadership from Tallahassee on School Reopening and COVID

“Parents were told that we would be reopening schools safely… the fact is though, the lack of funding, lack of PPE, lack of transparency, and teachers shortages are a recipe for disaster.” – Jessica Harrington, candidate for HD-64

Today, local Florida leaders called out Governor DeSantis’s lack of leadership on school reopening, and highlighted the blatant and dangerous lack of transparency coming from Tallahassee. Representative Geraldine Thompson, HD-44; Jessica Harrington, Democratic nominee for HD-64; Nadia Combs, candidate for Hillsborough County School Board District 1; Bianca Goolsby, Founder, Teaching for the Culture focused on how Governor DeSantis has followed Trump’s lead on COVID and school reopening and has prioritized expediency and image over safety and transparency.

They also highlighted the lack of adequate e-learning alternatives and funding and systems to close the achievement gap that COVID has already widened. Notably, all four women speakers are current or former teachers.

WATCH HERE

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CALL

Jessica Harrington, Democratic nominee for HD-64

“Here in Hillsborough County we were forced by the Governor and Representative Richard Corcoran to go back to brick and mortar even though medical professionals urged our board not to reopen our schools… when it came down to it we were threatened and told we would lose funding if we did not reopen in person.

“Parents were told that we would be reopening schools safely and that they could feel comfortable sending their children back — the fact is though that lack of funding, lack of PPE, lack of transparency, and teachers shortages are a recipe for disaster.

“When I was back in my classroom preparing for my long term substitute I was shocked by what I was seeing. We were not given enough sanitizing wipes… the desks could not be adequately spread out… my windows also do not open, there is absolutely no way to follow CDC guidelines under those conditions.

“[…]Today is day 15 of reopening schools in Hillsborough County and we already have 182 reported cases on our campuses… and my colleagues tell me there are many more unreported cases. We have an utter and complete lack of leadership coming from Tallahassee. Our school districts are in crisis. For years our state legislature has underfunded our schools and now our schools are expected to magically have the funding to keep our students safe.

“This Governor has been in lock step with the President and has not taken COVID seriously which has cost many Floridians their lives.”

Nadia Combs, candidate for Hillsborough County School Board District 1

“The financial pressure from this Governor is making sure that our students are not receiving adequate education or safety precautions.

“[…] Instead of our school board and new superintendent making the decisions [for our community] were guided by the Governor.

“My daughter was exposed to COVID at school and she was placed on quarantine for 14 days… but she wasn’t given access to e-learning… We need to let our local school boards and teachers do what is best for our communities.

“[…]We need leadership that is going to put our public schools first… and we need more transparency”

Bianca Goolsby, Founder, Teaching for the Culture

“COVID has created a serious achievement gap for many students in Florida… and has illuminated the systemic issues for our marginalized students and families.

“[…] The Governor has not allocated enough funds to ensure that students are equipped for distance learning. The Governor had not even provided enough funds to ensure that there was equity in education prior to COVID… Now, the Governor has intentionally made cuts to widen the achievement gap, that he claims is the purpose to reopening schools.

“COVID has illuminated the digital divide…some families don’t even have access to WiFi simply because of their zip code or credit score… There has to be a robust distance learning program to ensure equity and I’m here to tell you that right now there is not.

“[…] I also want to take a moment to highlight our support staff that are so often left behind in these conversations. What resources are we providing the bus drivers and other support staff?

“We need people to follow these 3 simple principles: accountability, transparency, and integrity.”

Representative Geraldine Thompson, HD-44

“We have a Governor who is following Donald Trump and the Trump playbook and looking more at the economy and sacrificing people at the same time.

[…] “We had a teacher shortage before COVID because we were not paying teachers what they were worth… we saw teachers leaving the classroom just to be able to provide for their families.

[…] “We need to look at other options like staggered start times… we need to look at what is happening on buses on the commute to school… [we need] funding so that students and teachers can purchase PPE… we also have not seen funding for appropriate sanitation in schools.

“The Governor has not provided the leadership and the Governor has not provided the funding… he is looking at profits over people.

“We need people to step up and show leadership now… It is our local school board candidates who will be making the decisions that will keep our students, our teachers, our bus drivers and our custodians safe.

[…]“Our Governor has elected to shield that information [about cases in specific schools] and has directed the Department of Health not to release the figures.”

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